River Forest, Illinois, mom Julie Fleisch used Feeding America’s Hungry to Help Family Action Plan to teach her daughter about hunger in their community.
I was first introduced to Feeding America’s Hungry to Help Family Action Plan by a friend. She told me the plan was designed to help parents encourage empathy and teach their kids about hunger. At the time, my oldest daughter Natalie, who was 5 at the time, had plans to participate in a community food drive with her school. The lesson seemed to tie into this perfectly, and I was excited to use it to teach Natalie more about why we were doing the food drive and how it would help.
We started the Family Action Plan with a story about a little girl who needs free school lunch to get enough to eat. The story gave me the chance to explain to Natalie that some of her classmates arrive early to school for free breakfast — breakfast they need because it might be the only way they will eat. That really blew her mind — the fact that some kids her age don’t have what she has was something she never thought about before.
In addition to stories, the Family Action Plan provided discussion tips, activities and volunteer ideas. Just having the stories and discussion starters was extremely helpful. I didn’t have to plan what I was going to say, or how to put it in words she’d understand. After we had a nice chat, Natalie, who loves arts and crafts, connected to the idea of making a collage. We worked together to find images and words that made her think of “a perfect world where everyone’s bellies feel full.” She was proud of her work and hung it in her room. It can now serve as a constant reminder to be grateful for what she has, and empathetic to those who don’t have all that they need.
After going through the lesson plan, I tied in what we learned to the food drive Natalie was participating in. I explained that we were collecting food for kids and families in need. By participating in the food drive, she is helping to make a difference and get food to people who might otherwise go without.
The lesson really impacted Natalie. Throughout, she was engaged and asked thoughtful questions. It helped her understand, for the first time, that not everyone was in the same situation as her — and because of that, she has a responsibly to give back. And she’s definitely taken that to heart! About a month after the lesson and food drive, Natalie came to me with a plan: she wanted to host a lemonade stand to raise money for kids in need.
As they get older, I hope to help Natalie and my other two children further understand hunger through volunteering and meeting people in need. But for now, the Family Action Plan was a perfect way to start — and I encourage other parents to try it as well. Teaching kids about empathy is incredibly important and can be seen as a monumental task. But this plan helps you take that small first step that will help the values of empathy and giving back grow. It’s like dropping coins in a jar — eventually, it will add up to something bigger.
Julie Fleisch is an elementary school reading specialist, health and wellness enthusiast, and a mom of three kids: Natalie, age 6, Eleanor, 4 and Bennett, 2. She lives with her family in River Forest, Illinois. Follow her health and wellness tips on Instagram @mamasbluebinderTags: Hunger Heroes , Child Hunger , Illinois